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Creating an Effective Print Publication

by Howard Adam Levy

In our last article, Rise of the Magazine: How Nonprofits Are Harnessing the Power of Print, we looked at how different organizations were accomplishing their goals through print magazines and newsletters. In this article, we discuss some tips for creating an effective print publication.

nonprofits, marketing, nonprofit newsletters, nonprofit magazines1. Write For Your Audience
It all starts with your audience. You need to determine who your audience is, and write for them. Most organizations start with their needs, don’t think about why someone would be interested in what they are writing about, and consequently, miss an opportunity to connect with their members, donors, and volunteers. The more you understand about your audience, the more you can develop content that will appeal to them, and write in a way that will be engaging to them.

2. Have a Specific Purpose for Each Article
When crafting your content, determine why you are writing each article. For example, each of the following articles would be written completely differently.

  • Informing your clients about a new service so that they can use that service.
  • Educating your members about an issue of concern to them.
  • Persuading readers to adopt your point of view on an issue.
  • Engaging your audience to take an action, such as volunteering or signing a petition.
  • Entertaining your readers with humorous anecdotes that delight.
  • Inspiring your donors with an emotional appeal to give.
  • Building credibility for your organization with evidence of your successes.

3. Include a Clear Call to Action
Know what action you want people to take as a result of reaching your publication, and make it easy to do so. Include phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, and contact names in the appropriate stories, and including form, and reply envelopes to facilitate responses, if appropriate.

4. Structure Your Publication for Maximum Impact
Make sure to structure your publication in way that best conveys your information. Think about the flow and sequence of the pages to provide a meaningful experience for your reader. For example, instead of random articles throughout the publication, you can organize your content into thematic areas that help your donors understand the impact that your organization is making in different communities or with different populations. Consider anchoring a spread with one main article with related smaller sidebars or newsbites, rather than having many pieces competing for attention.

5. Convey Your Organization’s Personality
This is one of the biggest lost opportunities for nonprofits to connect with their constituents — writing in a human way that demonstrates the passion of the people powering your cause. Avoid clinical jargon and institution-speak and write with personality to help your audience understand what makes your organization unique and worth following. Your copywriting style should reflect the style of your organization — for example, a policy organization reaching business executives and legislators may have a more academic tone than an after school arts organization.

6. Use Good Design Principles
Like it not, people do judge a book by its cover, and people will judge the professionalism of your organization based on the look of your marketing, including your publications. Good design can help your reader access your content in more ways, draw them in and inspire them, and communicate more cogently, in addition to creating a professional impression for your organization. Some best practices in design include:

  • layout that provides a central focus and hierarchy that leads the reader through the material, using images effectively to tell your story
  • a harmonious palette of colors that work well together and convey the appropriate tone,
  • typography that facilitates reading rather than confusing it
  • branding that is consistent with your website and other marketing materials
  • quality paper and printing production that conveys a good impression.

With with a targeted objective, proper planning, and solid writing and design, and you can turn your publication into a communication powerhouse that that builds visibility and support on many fronts.

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Howard Adam Levy is Principal of Red Rooster Group, a marketing design firm that helps businesses and nonprofits build effective brands and marketing.